Minimizing Errors of Omission: Behavioural Reenforcement of Heparin to Avert Venous Emboli: The BEHAVE Study

Crit Care Med. 2006 Mar;34(3):694-9. doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000201886.84135.CB.


Objective: To improve patient safety by increasing heparin thromboprophylaxis for medical-surgical intensive care unit patients using a multiple-method approach to evidence-based guideline development and implementation.

Design: Prospective longitudinal observational study.

Setting: Medical-surgical intensive care unit.

Participants: Multidisciplinary clinicians caring for critically ill patients in a 15-bed medical-surgical closed intensive care unit.

Interventions: Phase 1 was a 3-month baseline period during which we documented anticoagulation and mechanical thromboprophylaxis. Phase 2 was a 1-yr period in which we implemented a thromboprophylaxis guideline using a) interactive multidisciplinary educational in-services; b) verbal reminders to the intensive care unit team; c) computerized daily nurse recording of thromboprophylaxis; d) weekly graphic feedback to individual intensivists on guideline adherence; and e) publicly displayed graphic feedback on group performance. Phase 3 was a 3-month follow-up period 10 months later, during which we documented thromboprophylaxis. Computerized daily nurse recording of thromboprophylaxis continued in this period.

Measurements and main results: Intensive care unit and hospital mortality rates were similar across phases, although patients in phase 2 had higher Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores than patients in phases 1 and 3. The proportion (median % [interquartile range]) of intensive care unit patient-days of heparin thromboprophylaxis in phases 1, 2, and 3 was 60.0 (0, 100), 90.9 (50, 100), and 100.0 (60, 100), respectively (p=.01). The proportion (median % [interquartile range]) of days during which heparin thromboprophylaxis was omitted in error in phases 1, 2, and 3 was 20 (0, 53.8), 0 (0, 6.3), and 0 (0, 0), respectively (p<.001).

Conclusions: After development and implementation of an evidence-based thromboprophylaxis guideline, we found significantly more patients receiving heparin thromboprophylaxis. Guideline adherence was maintained 1 yr later. Further research is needed on which are the most effective strategies to implement patient safety initiatives in the intensive care unit.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Patient Care Team
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control*
  • Venous Thrombosis / epidemiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin